Have you ever sat and looked at a hardwood floor — I mean, really looked at it? (No, we haven't been up late.) Everyone at a quick glance can see the beauty of it, but there's also a deep, rich history embedded in the grains of every plank of hardwood flooring. A tree goes through a lot in 50 years of growth — injury, drought, overwatering, trimming, and storms just to name a few — actually, kind of like people in a way. So each tree has its own story and personality and character.
This character is found in the veins, streaks, striations, and knotholes in the milled plane of flooring boards. And not only is each tree's story unique, each board from the same tree can retell a different chapter from that tree's story.
And there are millions of stories to be told and thousands of variations and levels of the expression of the character of wood. It's your job to decide on the look you want for your room. Wood that has lots of character is typically going to have several knotholes, streaks, veining, and contrasting colors. Some actually can have an almost 3-D appearance. The wood used to form this type of flooring is called heartwood because it comes from areas closer to the core of the tree.
This type of hardwood flooring is most often chosen for rustic designs, such as cabins and cottages or homes and shops that have a quaint or "woodsy" feel to them. One thing to consider in choosing flooring with lots of character is that deep knotholes can sometimes be more difficult to fully protect with finishes and sealant, and it can be the weak spot that moisture and dirt can sometimes collect. But there are several finishes out there specifically made to tackle this issue, so don’t let that dissuade you.
The other side of the coin can be called "clear wood" or "sapwood" and is taken from the area of the tree closer to the bark — the farther out, the "clearer" it is. This type of wood flooring has a much more. . . sophisticated look (although that is debatable). It has a smooth texture and has minimal markings or streaking and knotholes. This look is popular as well for more contemporary designs that call for a more uniform, sleek look that doesn't distract from the rest of the décor. With character, you're going to get distraction, but in a beautiful way. But what you envision for your space is what matters.
So when you decide on your flooring, take a minute to read the trees' stories that were laid out to make your beautiful new floor. You'll get an even deeper appreciation for its benefit to your home and life.